Without identifying a franchise quarterback, the 2016-17 New York Jets season can go down as the most meaningless campaign in franchise history.
One can make the argument that 2016, when stacked up against the other years of this earth’s existence, has been as sensational as a 365-day span can be. The year has maintained the proof that anything is possible.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump won the presidency, and the Dallas Cowboys are 8-1 — yes, you were supposed to ponder that statement.
However, while this wonderful year has symbolized opportunity, multiple things have not changed.
The Cleveland Browns continue to be the most atrocious franchise in sports, the New York Knicks are showing no organizational direction, and the New York Jets are still conducting their ongoing 56-year search of a franchise quarterback.
Fortunately for Gang Green, as 2016 has proved, there will be light at the end of the tunnel — as hard as that is for fans to believe. The questions persist as to “when?” and “how?”
To simplify what has been a perplexing sequence of events: the Jets would never have rolled the dice on Ryan Fitzpatrick if they weren’t extremely high on their unit. They would not have risked a year of development at a vital position if Todd Bowles was not expected to lead this team to Houston.
Now, sitting at 3-7, all Jets’ faithful can think of is the one area they have never succeeded in. A position they caught lightning in a bottle with last year, only to excruciatingly miss out on the postseason.
When everything went south with one of the most promising rosters in recent history, the blame was thrown in the direction of none other than Ryan Fitzpatrick — and rightfully so.
The second Geno Smith took the reigns, hoping to right the ship and earn the fanbase back, his ACL had other plans.
On November 16, waking up with no true quarterback, fans can only wonder but one thought: “Is Bryce Petty the answer?”
Before this season becomes one of the largest steps back in franchise history, which is an extremely tough task when taking previous miseries into account, the Jets need one question — and one question only — answered authoritatively. That is the prolonged question with their quarterback position, providing stability for the long-term rather than merely the short-term.
The organization almost had it with Chad Pennington, only to come up short for the millionth time. Since, the team has suffered through a brutal collapse with a washed-up Brett Favre, serious, untreatable butt-fumbling trauma with Mark Sanchez, an explosive presence whose loud mouth resulted in a broken jaw and a Harvard grad who believes his zero playoff appearances entitle himself to a large contract and, thus, unwavering support.
Is it a case of bad luck? Is it a misfitted franchise trying to get the best out of QBs they don’t truly believe in? Who knows.
One thing is for certain, though. If the Jets walk into the 2017-18 season with another veteran experiment, there will be outcry unlike anything ever fathomed. Simply put, fans are done with being part of an experiment, going year-to-year at a position which defines teams in the National Football League.
The same goes for the draft. Walking out of the NFL Draft with a quarterback less than a top-notch, more seasoned option would be unacceptable. The patience for another so-called “project” is no longer in the equation.
To avoid either of those two situations, which would only come about after arguably the least implicative season in franchise history, New York needs to find its answer right now.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was never a long-term answer, and his performance displayed exactly what he has been his entire career. The secondary option, Smith, was eliminated from present and future plans as soon as his knee decided to give out. The fourth option is a potential-driven Penn State product who needs the sun to be shining, the sky to be blue and two clouds to be situated at an 110-degree angle above his helmet. In other words, he needs time.
The only guy who can provide an answer is Bryce Petty, and he needs to be more than a saving grace. He needs to give the franchise something it has never possessed, owned and unveiled: a franchise QB.
He has six weeks to do so.
Everyone knew the Baylor product was the best option on the roster, simply awaiting the day he was deemed “ready.” Now is that time.
A lot rides on the poise of one 25-year-old.
He can salvage what will always be viewed as a disgraceful season of sheer underperformance. He can avoid another offseason of uneasiness while teams like the Patriots, Packers, Colts, Seahawks and Giants prepare for another season with their long-tenured mainstay.
Can he perform those two operations? Jets fans can hold their breath as they always have, at least knowing that 2016 odds have shone a ray of light — no matter how close or far away.